Aron Baynes recently opted out of his final year with the Detroit Pistons, choosing to rejoin the uncertainty of free agency once again.
This signifies a belief that there remains good --or even better-- value than the $6.5 million he's leaving on the table. It's also likely that Baynes is looking to secure his next long-term contract, as he hits his 30s.
Reality might be otherwise, since the 2017/18 season's salary cap has not risen (standing at approximately $99 million), compared to last off-season's massive spike. Baynes' potential market depends on a mix of cap space, roster fit, and competition from fellow free agents like Dewayne Dedmon, Zaza Pachulia, and even fellow Boomer Andrew Bogut.
Unlike the new breed of big men, many of whom make a living from the perimeter, Baynes is cast from the mould of a traditional center. That's not to say he's ineffective; the Boomers big man remains a reliable rebounder who provides rim protection and sets nasty screens.
He also packs a decent mid-range scoring punch, and can be trusted to hit free throws in close game situations (read: not Andre Drummond). Baynes rated 11.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per 36 minutes last season (link), and which is definitely something teams could use in a reserve big man.
Where could Aron Baynes be headed next?
1. Detroit Pistons
Detroit could still work out an extension with Aron Baynes.
“There are a lot of scenarios where we can bring Aron back so that’s not a done deal, but we knew the opt-out was coming,” Stan Van Gundy told The Detroit News, after practice last month.. “Right now on our salary structure, if you look at where our roster is, we can’t pay him that right now and be under the tax.
“Things change as the summer goes on, but there are scenarios where he could be back. But right now, some things would have to happen.”
Like Van Gundy suggested, there's no way the Pistons can avoid luxury tax without additional maneuvering. The Pistons could exercise early Bird rights and retain Baynes for $11.3 million, but their current $97 million salary sheet (link) makes it tough. Boban Marjanovic's presence and affordable contract, makes this scenario even less likely.
2. San Antonio Spurs
Could Aron Baynes make a return to the Spurs?
He's well-acquainted with their system for obvious reasons, having spent multiple seasons with the team, including their championship run in 2014/15.
Pau Gasol, along with David Lee have declined their player options, opting for free agency. It's also unclear if the team can re-sign Dedmon. The need for a big man --especially one who has earned Pop's trust-- is real.
Should no surprises happen, the Spurs have available cap space to get Baynes on board; they have $73 million committed at this point, not including Patty Mills' pending deal, or the potential re-signing of Manu Ginobili. The sums and team situation work on paper; it's all about whether discussions pan out.
3. Dallas Mavericks
The Mavericks were dead last in the league, when it came to rebounding last season. They definitely plan to re-sign Nerlens Noel, and have apparently committed to Salah Mejri for the coming season, but is that enough?
Neither Noel or Mejri are hulking menaces. If you're thinking like Pop and feel like the Mavericks want some nasty, Baynes might be the choice here. No one wants Dirk banging at the five spot for extended stretches, having someone like Baynes would help ease the burden.
The Mavs can definitely do what's needed to get Baynes --or any other free agent-- especially if Dirk opts out of his contract.
Honorary mention: Golden State Warriors
There's always the possibility that Baynes is looking to join a championship contender, instead of hunting for his next big contract.
In that scenario, the defending champions become an option since the Warriors' starting center, Zaza Pachulia is currently a free agent.
It's more about the ring and less about money if Baynes joins the Warriors, since there's not likely to be much left after Kevin Durant ($53 million, 2 years), Stephen Curry ($201 million, 5 years), Shaun Livingston ($24 million, 3 years), and Andre Iguodala ($45 million, 3 years) finalise their respective deals.
The Cleveland Cavaliers need big man depth behind Tristan Thompson, but are unfortunately deep into the luxury tax after re-signing Kyle Korver to a 3-year, $22 million deal.
Which teams do you think would be a fit for Aron Baynes?